What Does Not Work for Fluency Instruction

The definition of fluency, the principles for instruction, and the effective instructional strategies are quite clear about what you want students to do and how you can help them do it.

The following table describes three types of instructional strategies and activities that either do not align with the definition of fluency and principles or do not align with effective strategies.


Reason Why It Does Not Work

Flash Cards

Think about the definition of fluency; it includes appropriate expression and pacing. Students can do neither one if they are looking at individual words or disconnected phrases on flash cards. Flash cards may have some value for word recognition but not for fluency.

Speed Drills & Timed Assessments

The point of reading (whether aloud or silently) is not to do it as fast as possible. Similarly, the point of fluency instruction is not to see how many words a student can decode correctly in a minute or two. These types of activities are assessment and not instruction, they only address the phonics component of fluency, and they lead to a misunderstanding of the purpose for reading aloud.

Round Robin Reading

Round robin reading is students each taking a turn to read the next section of text, one student after the other. It has four major problems.

First, it typically does not include instruction, feedback, or correction. Nor does it allow a student multiple attempts to read the same passage. Even when the teacher does intervene to help a student struggling with pronunciation or decoding, the student re-attempts the word and then keeps going.

Second, only one student is participating at a time. The other students are supposed to be reading along silently, but there is no reason for them to do so. Round robin reading is called a group activity, but in reality, it is just one student at a time.

Third, round robin reading generally does not include discussion about the passage, expression, or pacing. If anything, students will want to get through their section as quickly as possible.

Fourth, and finally, round robin reading is painful for both the student who is put on the spot to read and for the other students who have to listen and pretend interest even if the student reading has poor fluency.

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